Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Using puppets in therapeutic work

In a blog last week Theatresaurus outlined the uses for a mice and cheese puppet

I am now showing five ways to use 'Mice and Cheese' in therapeutic work

The delightful five finger puppets inside a lump of yellow cheese can be used in a variety of different ways for personal development group and dramatherapy and play therapy.  They are enjoyed by young and old alike and I have also used them for staff training for Social Services, in Care Homes and Arts Therapies Training in UK and overseas.

1. Invite the group to move in to smaller groups of 3 or 4 people; each group chooses a mouse.  Describe the cheese as a Dickensian orphanage and each group writes the life story of how their mouse arrived to live in the cheese.  Share stories in the main group, and any feelings that have been aroused.

2.  The same as 1. but this time invite each group to create a play of the arrival at the Cheese Orphanage - invent new characters of the staff and porter with the gate keys.  Show plays to rest of group with or with out words, and leave time for feedback

3.  Suggest to an individual that maybe the mice can become a family who live in a cheese house.  What stories happen in this house that the mice might tell?  The stories can be drawn or spoken.  Some children or adults may want to tell just one story of 'the mouse who has a story'.

4.  Working with familes or foster families: suggest that the mouse family can be a mirror for their family.  Arrange the mice to illustrate a difficulty or conflict that prevents the family being relaxed together.  Each person can choose a mouse in the family and speak for that person, speaking as 'I am...'

5.  Describe the cheese as a prison that everyone is desperate to break out of - what has kept them in the prison and why?  The door does not look locked and there is a flowering shrub that looks inviting.  Improvise the ideas and then create a play called 'The Great Escape'.  Share experiences and feedback, especially any feelings of liberation from being free at last!.. However perhaps there are also people who do not want to escape.  Allow for all different experiences.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Acknowledging Sorrow & Loss

Looking at the Mountains........

It is just six weeks since my beloved husband Peter died and the rawness is subsiding but the sorrow is very intense.  Everyone has been very kind and solicitous, and the messages and cards quite overwhelming.  Where does this journey go without indulging gross self-pity or 'carry on regardless'.

I find that life with loss is a paradox - everyone's support is wonderful but I also want to manage it in my way, grieve how I wish to grieve and not to have to talk if I don't feel like it.  Someone saying 'its good to talk' imposes their criteria on my grieving.  There are factors that are extremely personal to each individual.  For example I find that the sensory things that were shared are both poignant and essential: the smell of curry that Peter would cook, the hair-combings of his beard that birds would take for nest building, his eyes bright with a sense of adventure as we planned the next trip.

Now I am at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania where we lived for long stretches of time - we used to say that we spent most of our time mountain gazing as the mists and snows kept changing the vista - sometimes they would disappear completely and within minutes emerge from the wafting clouds.  Today, minus 15 degrees, the snow very crisp and pure, the dawn has bathed the mountain peaks in a wondrous red glow.  I can feel at one with him but also know that I must walk alone. 

Friday, 10 February 2012

My 5 Favourite techniques for handling Anger

Anger Management: 5 Favourite Techniques

John puts snot in Shane's school lunch, Mary is scratching her wrist so it bleeds, Chris is banging chairs against the wall so they come apart - so what can we do?  The 'Aah' factor does not work nor does anger escalation where we get more angry than the child.  What strategies can be used as interventions in these scenarios, that are all remarkably similar and highly personal?

1. When children are angry 
  • they push the boundaries, 
  • create bigger boundaries with giant paint-brushes or jumbo crayons

2. When children are angry 
  • they hurt themselves in isolation
  • experiment with interactive games such as cat's cradle or grandmother's footsteps

3.  When children are angry
  • they have messy feelings
  • encourage messy play with finger paints or clay

4.  When children are angry
  • they want to destroy things
  • change them into puddle-jumping, water-splashing or paper shredding

5. When children are angry
  • their feelings are muddled
  • transform them through a story where the feelings are clear such as Ugly Duckling 
Remember: try setting limits in different ways and transform the angry energy into creative activities

Friday, 3 February 2012

Anger Management - just starve them into submission

The scandal of the Romanian orphanages has faded quickly from public memory - less than 15 years ago, many children were tied to their beds so their limbs grew back to front.  They were fed every 3 days so they learned to grab as much food as possible - scoff it quickly, sick it up and then slowly eat it to make it last.  But worst of all, no-one in the large institutions created any trace of an attachment relationship.  They were left for days on end with no touch or verbal communication.

I now work with many of these orphans who are in their teens and twenties, who ran away at 7 or 8 years old, after years of physical, emotional and often sexual abuse.  They fended for themselves: begging, sleeping rough on railway stations, in abandoned cars.  Many people are trying to 'settle' them in hostels or half-way homes and help them to find unskilled work in the hope that they will avoid petty crime.  However it is very frustrating for staff when many of these young people choose to stay on the streets rather than risk yet again the possibility of abuse.  We have started training volunteers in the principles of attachment and the importance of a trusting  relationship.  It is slow work, especially when grown-ups behave like 3 year-olds!

Today's news tell us that it is -40 in many parts of Romania, even the sea is freezing!  People are dying of hypothermia and farms and villages are cut off without heating and food.  Last week saw riots in the Romanian capital Bucharest  because of the increasing austerity measures and high unemployment.  Warmth of all kinds is needed for this very damaged, but oh so beautiful country.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Anger Management. Why we shouldn't hit Children

Yes we all want to lash out sometimes, physically or verbally, which is why we go to the gym or play sport or join a drama group.  There are lots of activities that can focus our energy that sometimes spills over.  If we don't have a focus  then we hit a child or kick a pet or shout at the neighbours because we have lost control.

The Independent's Anna Barbieri made the recent point 'A child will learn nothing by being hit', indeed all they will learn is how to hit out for themselves and that it is OK  to 'lose it'.  Children who have healthy, loving attachments at an early age, grow up with self esteem and empathy.  The brain understands empathic responses from birth and reciprocates from about the age of 18 months.  Barbieri again, 'If you hit an adult, you can be charge with assault, even if you don't leave a red mark'.  A red marks elevates it to Actual Bodily Harm (ABH).  However, legally you can hit a child providing you do not leave a mark and do not hit the child's head.  We actually have laws concerning degrees of hitting.  My own research with the Temiars of Malaysia, (who are currently being prosecuted for staging a peaceful protest about their eroding land rights) showed that peaceful and loving child-rearing brought about peaceful and loving adults.  The Temiars did not hit their children and consequently they did not hit each other as adults.

Yesterday on the Today Programme, someone 'in authority' stated that teenagers had to be prepared for living 'in a harsh and difficult world'.  Is this what civilisation has brought about?  I associate harsh worlds with the bleak steppes of Kazakhstan or the relentless poverty in India, not the comparative high economic standards of centrally heated western Europe!

Lets start again at least by realising that children are tomorrow's adults and deserve a good start - warmth, love and acceptance.  We are all very angry at the state of the world, the economy and most of all the uncertainty - but it does not have to turn into anger and violence!

Sue Jennings new book 'The Anger Management Toolkit: Understanding and Transforming Anger in Children and Young People' is published by Hinton House